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Apple CEO Tim Cook to give Commencement address

Photo by flickr user  used under a CC BY 2.0 licence.
Photo by flickr user used under a CC BY 2.0 licence.

GW graduates this May will hear advice from the leader of one of the world’s most successful companies.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, who has led the publicly traded corporation since 2011, will headline Commencement this year, the University announced Wednesday at a men’s basketball game. Cook, who will receive an honorary doctorate of public service, was suggested as this year’s speaker by a group of students during the selection process.

University President Steven Knapp said in a release that he was “delighted” that Cook accepted the invitation to address the Class of 2015.

“I know our graduating students will be inspired and enlightened by his reflections on the lessons he has garnered from his distinguished career as a highly effective leader at the forefront of technological innovation,” Knapp said.

The announcement came during the second half of Wednesday night’s basketball game. A minute-long video played during a timeout, which showed text messages and phone calls between University officials and Cook on iPhones. Students cheered when it was revealed that he would be the speaker.

Cook, who succeeded co-founder Steve Jobs in August 2011, is the first openly gay CEO on the Fortune 500 list. The 54-year-old came out publicly in a Bloomberg op-ed in October 2014.

“I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” he wrote.

The Financial Times named Cook the Person of the Year for 2014, and Time named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012. He will speak on the National Mall about a month after the Apple Watch will begin shipping.

Cook delivered the commencement speech at Auburn University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, in 2010. He was Apple’s chief operating officer at the time.

His Auburn address focused on self-discovery and hard work, and he spoke about his decision to join and stay with Apple.

“If you are prepared when the right door opens then it comes down to just one more thing: Make sure that your execution lives up to your preparation,” Cook said during his speech.

The University will also award honorary degrees to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and Carole Watson, who earned her Ph.D. from GW in 1978 and is the former acting chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Last year, the University chose celebrity chef José Andrés to headline Commencement. The previous year, actress Kerry Washington sent off the graduating class.

Those picks marked departures from previous politics-focused choices, like then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

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